What are Non-Economic Damages?


Lisa Allen

Non-economic damages are the intangible losses a victim may experience after an accident. These types of losses are hard to define, and non-economic damages may be greater than economic damages in certain cases.

This is because non-economic damages consider the long-term impact of an event on a person’s life, not just the immediate expenses.

A court can award three different types of damages, depending on the circumstances of your case. Two of those types are compensatory damages, which are classified as either economic or non-economic damages. Another is called punitive damages.

Courts calculate economic damages from actual costs. For example, in a rental car accident, economic damages likely include doctor’s appointments, repair bills, and lost time from work. Food poisoning may involve non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

A doctor cannot issue a bill, for instance, for the cost of anxiety. But you can sue for elder emotional abuse, a type of non-economic damage, if your loved one’s resident rights were infringed. Non-economic damages are intangible conditions that affect a person’s quality and enjoyment of life.

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Examples of Non-Economic Damages

Courts can award various types of non-economic damages, depending on the accident and the accident’s circumstances. These are a few.

Pain and Suffering

Economic damages can pay for hospital bills after an accident. But not all pain ends after treatment. Sometimes a person continues to suffer even after their bodily injury is cured. For instance, after resetting a broken bone and removing the cast, the patient may still experience pain.

Physical pain is exhausting and can decrease a person’s capacity to enjoy life. A non-economic damage award compensates for that physical pain, even though it can’t be calculated by tangible expenses.

Emotional Distress

You may suffer long-lasting trauma after an accident, which can take the form of emotional distress. Someone’s outrageous behavior may have caused significant emotional harm. These losses are considered non-economic damages and can take the form of the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Intense shame or guilt
  • Humiliation
  • Unstable weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of suicide

Additionally, people who have been in accidents may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can have a lasting impact on their lives.

You deserve compensation for these emotional damages, even if there’s no dollar value assigned to these losses.

Loss of Consortium

A loss of consortium occurs if a person cannot interact with loved ones the way they did before an accident. An example of this might include no longer having the ability to be intimate with a spouse or partner. A parent may not play catch with a child or take them for bike rides like they did before the incident.

Only close family members and spouses can file for loss of consortium in a personal injury claim. This type of damage was meant to cover for lost life experiences you may have had before things changed.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

If someone’s actions unjustly destroys another’s ability to enjoy life compared to before, a court can award non-economic damages. A person who loved to travel but is too scared now to drive because of a previous accident is experiencing a loss of pleasure in life.

Like the other reasons for damages, this example is very particular to each case. If a person cannot run marathons due to an accident but they never ran one before, they have not experienced a loss of enjoyment of life.

Non-economic damages are proven on the severity of your losses and the liability the other party had on causing them. If you can prove those two things when filing for non-economic damages, you’re increasing your chances for a higher settlement.

Permanent Disfigurement

Becoming disfigured because of an accident entitles a person to non-economic damages. Losing a limb or becoming disfigured is a traumatic, life-changing event that can cause continued pain and emotional suffering. These are exactly the circumstances that these damages seek to mitigate.

Personal Injuries Involving Non-Economic Damages

A court can award non-economic damages whenever a person suffers ongoing physical or mental pain. A few examples of cases that courts award non-economic damages for include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Medical malpractice cases
  • Defective product injuries
  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Bicycle accidents

How to Calculate Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages differ from economic damages because they are intangible and difficult to quantify monetarily. But common ways to calculate non-economic damages exist.

The Multiplier Method

The most common method to determine non-economic damages is the multiplier method. You multiply the total economic damages by a set number, usually between 1.5 and 5. The more serious the accident, the higher the multiplier.

Caps on Non-Economic Damages

Different states and different cases have caps on how much you may earn through non-economic damages. Kansas and Missouri, for example, cap awards in medical malpractice cases. Some states like Connecticut have no cap on non-economic damages.

This is why it’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who knows the laws of your state. They know your state’s laws so you can safely gauge how much your claim’s worth before you take legal action.

Other Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Economic damages reimburse someone for the costs that result from an accident.

Non-economic damages are for intangible results of an accident.

And there’s punitive damages, which aren’t intended to compensate a plaintiff for their injuries or pain and suffering. Rather, courts award punitive damages to punish a defendant for their reckless or excessively negligent actions.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Case

A personal injury lawyer can assess your case and determine if you are likely to receive economic, non-economic, or punitive awards. Keep in mind that a consultation is free, and you pay nothing upfront until you win. Start your free assessment here or call 866-349-1787 if you’re ready to find an attorney.

Lisa Allen

Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.